General — 13 July 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
Armed robber of Belmopan gas station arraigned and remanded

BELMOPAN, Tues. July 9, 2019– The man who held up the Belmopan Buca Shell gas station on Sunday afternoon and was unable to make good his escape with an undisclosed amount of cash because he was apprehended by a brave employee of the gas station, was smiling as he exited the police vehicle that transported him from the Western Regional Hospital, from where he had been released into police custody after being treated for gunshot injuries he sustained after the robbery.

James Escarpeta, a 35-year-old unemployed resident of Hattieville, joked with police officers as he waited inside the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court for the Family Court matters, which were being held in chambers, to conclude.

Escarpeta appeared before Belmopan Magistrate Janell Villanueva, who read two charges to him. Police charged Escarpeta with robbery and possession of an unlicensed firearm.

After the magistrate read the two charges to him, the court prosecutor read the police facts that led to the charges.

Escarpeta was asked to enter a plea, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges, notwithstanding the fact that the entire episode inside the gas station was captured on surveillance video.

Court papers reveal that on Sunday, July 7, around 2:00 p.m., Roaring Creek resident, Wilton Montero, 30, an employee of the Puma Gas Station in Belmopan, reported to police that one of his co-workers, Phillion Chiac, told him that the cashier, “had given the man all the money.”

Montero said he responded with an expletive, and at that point, he was approached by a person he described as a 6’ 2″, dark-complexioned man, with a low afro haircut. Montero said the man had a red school bag, was wearing a buttoned-down shirt and white jeans pants, and had what appeared to be a firearm in his hand.

Montero said that, fearing for his life and that of his co-worker, he immediately took all the money from his pocket and handed it to the robber. He said that after he had handed over the money, the robber told them, “Unnu noh f— with me!”

He said the robber then got into a GMC Envoy that was parked at Pump 4 at the station, most likely to commandeer the vehicle, but the alert driver jumped out. Escarpeta then got out of the Envoy and got into a white Toyota 4-Runner that was at the gas station, but the alert driver of this vehicle also jumped out and ran. Escarpeta then jumped out of the Toyota and ran out of the gas station compound and onto Constitution Drive.

Montero got into his white Ford Escort vehicle and began following the robber as he ran along Constitution Drive. He followed the robber until he got to Garbutt Creek Street, which is in front of the Belmopan Medical Center, and he managed to hit him with the left side of the car, causing the robber to fall to the ground.

The robber got up and ran inside the Belmopan Medical Center compound, and Montero got out of his vehicle and followed him on foot.

When the robber saw Montero following him, he stopped and pointed his gun at him and attempted to fire, but the gun jammed.

Montero said he threw a baton at the robber, but missed, and he then ran toward the robber and a struggle ensued between them, during which the firearm discharged and a bullet hit the robber in the left hand.

At this point, Montero managed to wrest the firearm from the robber and held him until police arrived.

Escarpeta was accused of the 2006 murder of deportee Kevin Parks, 28, but he was acquitted of the murder charge in March 2009.

Parks was gunned down at his Euphrates Avenue home in broad daylight by two men who rode by on bicycles.

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Deshawn Swasey

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